New Place Review tool to help you create safer and more welcoming streets and public spaces

As part of Right to the Streets initiative, Open Data Manchester have created a Place Review tool to help identify steps you can take to create safer and more welcoming streets and public spaces. The Place Review was finalised and launched at Stretford Public Hall in September 2023 and here, Toyebat Adewale, explains how the tool was developed with the Trafford community.

Overhead view of a group dance exercise class in a community centre

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By Toyebat Adewale - Open Data Manchester | 04 December 2023 | TAGS: right to the streets

Gathering data – community survey and walkabouts 

From November 2022 to February 2023, we ran a survey to connect with the community and gauge interest in the work.  

We encouraged people to join ‘walkabouts’ which were used to gather initial data on the places people enjoy, and the language they would use to describe them.  

More on the survey and results can be found on our website with the data from this initial survey feeding into the design of our main walkabout workshops.  

A desk covered in maps and resources for the Right to the Streets place review.

The vision for the walkabouts was to create a space for women and girls to come together and reflect on and share their experiences. They consisted of two main elements; indoors using pen and paper, and going out on a walk to experience the streets and incorporate physical activity. 

From December 2021 until March 2022, we ran 14 workshops in different areas of North Trafford, including Gorse Hill Community Centre, St Johns Centre, and BluSci Old Trafford Wellbeing Centre, to more than 50 people. 

In these sessions, participants would reflect on three questions about safety, physical and social activeness, and belonging: 

  1. What makes you feel safe or unsafe?  
  1. What make you feel like you can or cannot be active?  
  1. What gives you a sense of belonging in your area?   

Participants then used printed maps to draw routes they regularly take, highlight places of interest, places they avoid, and how they feel when making these journeys.  

We then stepped out onto the street to walk those routes, experience the places in person, reflect on them and how we felt, before returning back to reflect further and add to the maps. 

A map of Trafford covered in post it notes as research for Right to the Streets.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we saw recurring themes come up, such as issues around street lighting or nearby green spaces. This sparked discussions about being active, what this means to women and girls in the area, and the sorts of things that can act as an enabler or a barrier. 

Some of the commonalities gathered from our walkabout data include: 

  • The state and upkeep of pavement  
  • The ease or unease of crossing the road  
  • Anti-social driver behaviour  
  • Safety (and the different ways it can be affected by the urban built environment, people’s behaviour and circumstances)  
  • Look and feel, comfort and cleanliness 
  • Parks and green spaces 
  • Sense of community and belonging 

 

Turning insight into action – developing a local place review tool 

Originally, our plan was to use the walkabouts to identify common routes and locations in which we would then conduct a place audit. 

A place audit is used to assess a space and how it’s used. It is a vital tool in urban design and planning, they generally look at things objectively, and can require a higher level of expertise to carry them out. 

We decided early on that we wanted to enable the community to carry out their own place audit, focusing on issues important to them and exploring their lived experience of the places they inhabit.  

We also wanted to take it beyond data gathering and give them tools and advise on turning insight into action. 

We looked into existing place audits to see what was working well. We were drawn to the Universal Design Walkability Audit Tool for Roads and Streets due to its straightforward and simplistic design, and found many categories overlapped with our walkabout themes.  

However, not all content was relevant to North Trafford and there were nuances, so rather than relying on something that didn’t quite fit, we decided to develop our own place review. 

Place review document by Open Data Manchester for the Right to the Streets project.

As a tool for residents, community groups and other locals to use, it was important to use the language and concerns of residents with the categories chosen and adapted to reflect the walkabout themes. 

We also included exercises for individuals and groups to identify their role in improving the areas they live - whether it is to actively start initiatives or advocate for change with local councils or other institutions.  

It also provides a space for reflection and exploration of the local area. 

Development took place between April and June. We ran feedback sessions with the community, the project partners and the Open Data Manchester team. In June, we ran two usability tests: online and in-person, which focused on both the content and ease of carrying out the review.  

Some of the feedback we’ve heard included: 

  • “Eye opening, I come through the area everyday but don't assess it apart from feelings” 
  • “Useful toolkit about learning local area” 
  • “Made me think of things that I might take for granted” 
  • “Could help with funding bids, providing the why”  

We were also reminded of the limitations. Participants emphasised that efforts to tackle violence against women and girls needs to be coordinated efficiently with big influencers of change such as local authorities, large event venues and the government. 

Since launching in September, the place review has been picked up my locals who attended Joy Diversions – fun, urban-exploring events hosted by Open Data Manchester - and the Right to the Streets celebration event. 

It exists as a resource on the GM Moving Resource Hub and can be downloaded by anyone, used and adapted to suit their needs. You can download a PDF of the place review from the GM Moving Resource Hub (log in required).

For information visit www.opendatamanchester.org.uk or email [email protected] 

Right to the Streets Place Review, made with and for the people of Trafford. Greater Manchester Moving, Trafford Council and Open Data Manchester logos.

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